Day 3 - Learning how to think beautifully / by Andreas Kopriva

Hello everyone and welcome to Day 3 of our week long exploration of how learning works. 

For today's research, I thought of revisiting Dr Edward de Bono's voluminous output regarding Lateral Thinking. Dr Edward has one of the most impressive resumes out there and has truly pioneered the whole concept of thinking. He recognizes that one of the biggest problems facing the world today is that human thinking which he summarizes in the embedded video below : 

According to the above clip, human thinking is too based on judgement rather than design orientated thinking. This is attributed to how, during the Renaissance, when Greek thinking (based on the Big Three - Plato, Aristotle and Socrates), the Church largely controlled and funded most of the thinking and they primarily focused on perceptual thinking. 

This lead to the popularization of a more truth, logic and argument based system of analysis which fitted their requirements at the time (primarily proving heretics as wrong). This system proved to be excellent in terms of more scientific testing yet it caused general issues as it was based on starting from a fixed position. You want to test a hypothesis out, expecting a set of results then proceed to design an experiment and test to see if the hypothesis is supported or whether it should be rejected. 

De Bono argues that real life begins with perceptions and that this current system is, according to his term - Ebne (Excellent But Not Enough). He continues to state that the system is good enough for observation and testing, or seeing 'What Is' but not really that great for seeing 'What Could Be'. 

Another major point with the whole perception based reality we live in is that perceptions are prone to be erroneous. If one's perception is inadequate then the results acquired will not be very useful. David Perkins of the Harvard Graduate School of Education has stated that 90% of errors of thinking are errors of perception. 

Recognizing the potential flaws of the thinking model widely used now, Dr Edward proceeded to create a variety of supplementary thinking instruments which focus primarily on creative and design based thinking. He coined the term 'Lateral Thinking' which simply put is deliberate creativity, accomplished by recognizing how the brain works as a patterning system and using a variety of tools to create new ideas. The following video covers the basics : 

Based on the above presentation, some of the key points I've personally recognized as potentially useful methods to be implemented are : 

  • Provocation - whereby you'd put forward a seemingly nonsensical concept to disrupt the typical mindset associated with a problem. 
  • Utilizing Chance - by starting from a point asides from 'A' - or wandering around the area away from the key points of the problem, you could generate a large amount of ideas which could then be applied to the issue at hand. Dr De Bono cites the example of Escor Steel, which using this method generated 21,000 ideas in a single afternoon. 
  • The Six Thinking Hats tool - this one is probably one of the most popular ideas utilized world-wide and one that I personally think is very useful. 


The Six Thinking Hats

The typical system put forward is the Argumentative method which sees two antithetical points arguing over which is 'correct', primarily via trying to prove the other wrong. Though this may have its usefulness, it doesn't really generate a lot of additional content, and may also be prone to personal arrogance/agendas whereby one of the arguers will stubbornly defend an objectively erroneous point to simply avoid being proven wrong. 

The proposed Six Thinking Hats alternative reads primarily like an empathy based system which gently coerces the exploration of a particular issue/problem from a multitude of angles. By regulating, say during a meeting, a coordinated usage of 'hats', each of which symbolize a different frame of mind, a more spherical and considered evaluation is facilitated. 

The hats are : 

  1. White - information. When 'wearing' this hat, the speaker assesses the information presented from a factual viewpoint 
  2. Red - Intuition. This hat symbolizes an intuition/emotion based viewpoint 
  3. Black - Critical. This one is most akin to the traditional critical view 
  4. Yellow - Values. This usually precedes the Black hat and focuses on seeing things based on the values they represent 
  5. Green - Creativity. This essentially represents the propagation of more creative ideas; ideas which are a bit outside conventional thinking. 
  6. Blue - Organization. This is based on the logistical considerations associated with the issue being discussed 

The embedded video below explains these in much greater depth and is well worth watching: 

A side effect of the considering alternative views to the argumentative model is developing the ability to see an argument from the other person's perspective, therefore, in a way, to open up yourself to a variety of other possibilities. We briefly discussed this in another article some time ago, and I was reminded of it by a social experiment that has been published recently (16th March) for Svetimageda

The overall awkwardness felt by the individuals partaking in the experiment is palpable and the context, in a way forces them to see first-hand the effects of racist/misinformed/ignorant perception and behavior. This largely leads to fully understanding how destructive such close-minded perceptions may be to an individual. 

Personally, I think the Six Hats Thinking Method accomplishes something very similar to this, in that it coaxes you into seeing things from a different viewpoint through a trigger object. The wearing of a colored hat, whether that is figurative or literal, which symbolizes a perspective, it may become easier to start seeing things from a slightly different viewpoint, shifting you away from your preconceptions and, thus, facilitating the formation of a fresh perspective. 

From today's session I have better understood some of the potential issues with learning and thinking that are prevalent today. I don't mean to evangelize Dr De Bono as the grand saviour of thought, but I definitely see some validity in the methodologies he has put forward. Nor am I advocating the abandoning of a certain thinking and learning methodology in favour of another. On the contrary, these talks and ideas are strongly based on augmenting the current models so as to enable the usage of everyone's latent creativity. 

Much like the mathematical brain example mentioned in the previous article, there appears to be this false glorification of 'creative' individuals. Similarly to the math example, I've heard people say how they wish they were more creative, or how they're not really creative at all etc which is nonsense. Creativity is a learned skilled, one which is largely underdeveloped in the majority of individuals, primarily due to the archaic educational systems that most of us have been exposed to. 

Personally, I went through a lot of years thinking that creativity was some sort of magical state of being that only a few were privy to and that I was not really one of those illustrious, prodigious few. That sort of mindset was largely fueled by a lack of useful information on the subject and on believing the general misinformation that used to be out there regarding these issues.

And that's kinda sad really. Thankfully, those ideas, methods and discussions are available for pretty much everyone at this point, so hopefully these inhibiting mindsets will be phased out over time. 

Hope you enjoyed this brief introduction to lateral thinking. I strongly suggest that you try to utilize the Six Thinking Hat method for a problem you may be facing and see how that may work out for you.

In the next update I'll be checking what the status quo for education in general is in this day and age while pondering what the near future could look like. 

Till then, take care :)   

Almost forgot - 

Banner graphic is by - Paul Foreman from - Some pretty cool mind map illustrations on there. Check it out!